Helmsley celebrates independence on Small Business Saturday

A NORTH Yorkshire business group is working to put its market town appeal on the map as part of Small Business Saturday.

Chuka Umunna and Carolyn Frank ahead of Small Business Saturday 2013

Helmsley in Business (HiB), which includes around 50 companies and organisations in and around the town, is planning a host of events on December 6.

Residents and visitors out to explore the town can expect a day of festive fun, with music, entertainment and food from local traders.

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It is the second year Helmsley in Business has backed Small Business Saturday, following the initiative’s UK in 2013.

Carolyn Frank, owner of Libby Butler Jewellers, told The Yorkshire Post: “The message of Small Business Saturday fits so well with Helmsley. We’ve got more than 100 independent businesses and just over 50 of those are retailers.”

Ms Frank bought Libby Butler Jewellers with partner Andrew Mardle in 2009. Both left corporate jobs, in business development and engineering respectively, to pursue the venture.

She said: “We left because we felt small business was more secure, even despite the recession.

“If you speak to small businesses, that’s a real trend.”

Ms Frank was one of the founding members of HiB, following discussions with the owner of a neighbouring business, Christine Garnett of deli Hunters of Helmsley.

“We saw that some of the other towns and the cities were struggling. While Helmsley wasn’t, there’s always the risk,” she said.

“We spoke to people and it started off slowly, but it’s really got a momentum.”

The group now includes around 50 organisations, including the North York Moors National Park and English Heritage.

Tony Webster, director fish and chip restaurant Scotts of Helmsley, said HiB is focused on promoting the town’s appeal all year around.

He said: “I bought the restaurant because I could see its potential.

“Helmsley’s the only market town in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. The National Park gets 10 million visitors a year and we’re right on its doorstep.

“But it’s not just about people who are coming through, we need them to stop off.”

The timing of Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to promote the town as a destination all-year round, Mr Webster said.

“We’ve got great accommodation and food offerings,” he said. “It also fits with the fact it’s all independent shops in the town. It really embraces that idea of independence.”

HiB committee member Mr Webster is leading work on the town’s first promotional brochure, which encourages people to “come for a visit, stay for a while”.

But the group is not just targeting tourists. A lot of HiB’s work, including the events on December 6, are about giving back to people in the town, Mr Webster said.

“A lot of people think of Helmsley as a tourist town, but it’s mainly residents who support our businesses,” Ms Frank added.

Independent town planner Katie Atkinson, director of KVA Planning Consultancy, said: “It’s all about businesses getting together to give something back to the community.

“Our setting, location, independence - it’s soemthing we want to celebrate.”

Think local on December 6

The Yorkshire Post is backing Small Business Saturday on December 6.

Activities and events are being held around the region to promote everything that independent companies have to offer.

The initiative, which launched in the UK last year, hopes to hook in shoppers in the all-important pre-Christmas period and get people exploring their communities.

This month, the Small Business Saturday bus tour kicked off in Leeds and York.

National campaign director Michelle Ovens said at its launch: “Yorkshire is full of wonderful small businesses, so we’re really excited to come back again.”